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Some days I feel as if so much in the world 'matters', that what we choose 'matters' for us is a very risky and selective exercise. I am re-reading (for probably the twentieth time) Tim Choy's chapter on 'Air's substantiations' in his book Ecologies of Comparison (2011). Tim describes how, as an ethnographer in Hong Kong, he tried to ignore the city's worsening air pollution because wealthy, foreign business people were the ones most often complaining about the air. In contrast, local communities in Hong Kong were suspicious of middle-class and elite efforts to use air pollution data as a political device. It was only when Tim's partner developed a series of very bad sinus infections, and when air pollution made headlines when Disney's boss voiced concerns about locating a Disneyland in Hong Kong due to 'poor air' and its disruption to 'family values', that Tim started to take air's matter seriously. In ignoring the air, Tim was drawing 'lines of distinction' between himself and the largely white foreigners, though he is hardly a local either. In other words, by drawing lines of distinction as we all do every day, we are capable of ignoring what does not align with us, even when that thing is the most obvious element of life. I have been feeling this in relation to heat. I am noticing how people in the UK draw lines of distinction around heat, when for example someone claims to be a 'sunny person', 'warm blooded' or 'Mediterranean at heart', and so better served by sun than rain. This is a relatively inocuous alignment in some ways, but in others it suggests lines of affinity between people and certain geographies, some of which the people doing the aligning have never actually visited, or if so only rarely on holiday. Some of these geographies are also the ones most affected by global heating. What level of heat, or what new distinctions, will maintain or redraw these alignments?


20 May 2024 12:22:50


Hackney Downs, London

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United Kingdom


Sasha Engelmann



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51.553864, -0.059553